Happy Cyber Monday…or, as I call it: Monday. Because it’s neither more cyber than Sunday or Tuesday, nor more indicative of Christmas sales volume, nor even particularly bargain-filled for shoppers. In other words: hype.
One thing about the intersection of the Internet and the world of marketing -- apart from the fact that nobody remembered to erect stop signs -- is that all involved tend to exaggerate that which does not matter and babble insipidly over that which really does.
For instance, over the holiday weekend, while you were busy lying about how juicy the turkey was, over in Europe the head of the World Federation of Advertisers was sounding the alarm about ad blocking -- i.e., the phenomenon that’s squeezing out what little life remains in the advertising and media industries. Managing Director Stephan Loerke offered a three-point plan, beginning with:
"The internet advertising experience is not satisfactory for consumers. As brand owners, we have to take a longer-term view and create an acceptable, sustainable advertising environment -- not push things to people in a way that turns them off."
Point 2 was “We have to alter time, space and the laws of economics,” and Point 3 was “We have to neutralize ISIS using Upworthy.”
See, Stephan, here’s the thing: No CMO ever convened the team to say, “How can we push more and more consumers away by feeding more ad units, no matter how irrelevant or repetitive, more intrusively?” And no publisher ever said, “How can we slow down the loading times on our pages and spike our users’ data charges with a bunch of irritating crap that keeps them from viewing the stuff we publish and they want to see?”
Dude, it’s a structural problem not solved with three-point plans. See, for one thing, nobody will look at online or mobile ads unless the ad is jammed directly into their corneas, because why would they? Why? And secondly, because there is a (nearly infinite) glut of ad inventory, CPMs are so low no publisher can make the nut without serving more and more units, each trying to slap the user upside the face for just an instant of attention.
And the more the ads intrude, the more the slap-happy users install ad blockers. “Not push things to people in a way that turns them off?” Excellent plan! Barring a $600 billion Cyber Monday gift card to the global publishing sector, your choices are osmosis and hypnosis. Pick one.
Because -- without magical intervention -- you cannot have a quality user experience and an advertising model in the same universe. Just look at Instant Articles, the closest thing to magic that publishers have seen in the past 20 years. Expanded reach, fast-loading content, perhaps even higher CPMs due to better targeting and a 100-to-0 rev share with the host platform in the publishers’ favor. Assuming (heh heh) that Facebook doesn’t renege later -- among other risks -- it would seem to be a sublime win-win-win.
Except, as The Wall Street Journalpointed out Cyber Two Weeks Ago, the very restrictions imposed to ensure a pleasant user experience are choking off the ad revenue the publishers need to keep the lights on.
Michael Reckhow, Facebook’s Instant Articles product manager, said the company received feedback from publishers and is now testing out changes to its Instant Articles ads policies, such as allowing more ads per article and ad formats that were barred previously
And therrrrrrre goes user experience down the slippery slope. Just wondering how Facebook reacts when the ad blockers kick in.
Like I said, a structural problem. The ad load and consumer experience are reciprocals. That, Stephan, is why prescribing the impossible is not a strategy. And awaiting magic is not a business plan.